Big snow: What are your rights if your flight is cancelled?

A quick guide to your rights if your travel plans are disrupted

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation. Photograph:  Brian Lawless/PA

If your flight is delayed or cancelled, you may be entitled to compensation. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA

 

What are your rights if your travel plans are disrupted by the weather?
If you have booked a trip through a travel agent or tour operator they will make every effort to get you to your destination at no extra cost. There may have to be some changes to what you originally booked, hotels may have to be changed, for example, you will still get accommodation.

If booked directly with the airline or accommodation provider, what can I do?
The rules of flight compensation – governed by the EU261 regulation – stipulate levels of compensation and assistance to passengers in the event of flight cancellations, delays. or denied boarding due to overbooking.

Compensation of €250 to €600 is payable, depending on the flight distance, length of delay, whether the flight was cancelled, or being denied boarding from overbooking. Shorter delays mean a percentage of the full compensation.

If your flight is cancelled, regardless of when you are notified, your airline is obliged to offer a choice between: re-routing as close as possible to the original departure time; re-routing at a later date; or a refund of the cost of the unused flight ticket. You may be entitled to additional compensation depending on when you were notified about the cancellation.

For delays, the timeframes are as follows:

  • EU Flights less than 1,500km (short haul), the delay must be greater than two hours;
  • EU flights of more than 1,500km and all other flights of between 1,500km and 3,500km (medium haul), the delay must be greater than three hours.
  • All non-EU flights of more than 3500km (long haul), the delay must be greater than 4 hours.
  • If your flight is delayed by more than five hours (regardless of the length of the journey) and you decide not to travel, you are entitled to a full refund.

Airlines are obliged to provide provide refreshments and accommodation where appropriate. The Court of Justice of the European Union has interpreted passenger rights strictly, so that there are virtually no exceptions for airlines to evade their obligations for breach of contract.

The Irish Travel Agents Association said, “Our advice to Irish holidaymakers travelling in the coming days is to keep in close contact with their travel provider or airline to establish if their holiday itineraries or flights are affected. No customer should be out of pocket for any travel disruption caused by the weather but compensation procedures can be quite complex, so we recommend that customers visit flightrights.ie for further information or speak to their point of booking, whether that is an airline or travel agent. “

What can I do about my accommodation?
If you booked through a travel agent then they will provide you with alternative accommodation. Hotels usually have strict rules about cancellation and you may find yourself paying for the first one or two nights regardless of whether you turned up or not.

If you booked self-catering accommodation, you will probably lose the full amount. Always have travel insurance, and take it out before you travel. You may be able to recoup the cost on the policy.

What about car hire?
The cancellation penalties for renting a car vary from company to company and generally the lower the price the more likely you are to lose your fee. Travel insurance will sometimes cover loss of car rental fees.

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